[TradeTalk] Training & Careers


I know that the topic of jewelry careers has been touched on
before, but as a still very new hobbyist, I have many questions
on the types of careers one can obtain in the various related

You see - like most people, I am tired – very, very tired – of
the 9-5 grind. I am a freelance writer on the side, but it does
not pay well enough to quit my “real” job to support my new
interests and develop skills in the various jewelry fields.

I’ve only been making jewelry for the past year and a half, so I
am a relative infant. I set up a small bench in my home with
the helpful tips of so many of you (“barebones studio” thread),
but the time I spend at my bench are limited by a full-time job
and other responsibilites. I wish for a career change in the
worst way, and know that I will need to go back to school
part-time, probably at night and at weekends. Many facets
interest me - gemology, vintage jewelry, appraising, etc.

So I guess my question is – are there many professions that are
"freelance" or where one works as a “consultant”. Many of you
appear to have your own shops, and then many of you seem to
"freelance" for lack of a better word. To those of you who are
independent contracters - is your field considered lucrative?
or must you rely on a spouse or other who can supply the
finances for rent, etc., while you hone your craft? Do many of
you work as appraisers? Are you hired by shops, insurance
companies, or other? Is there a systematic way of getting into
a field? or is it more hit-or-miss with a plethora of variables?

I hope this doesn’t sound too rambling. I’m just in my weekly
Monday morning mindstate of “what am I doing here, how do I get
out, and how do I pursue what I enjoy, and still make a living
at it” mode.

There is an appraising and gemology certification course being
taught at the University of Tampa, I believe, (how I wish I
could take 3 months off and enroll). Since I cannot attend, any
on similar areas of study in the Northeast would be
helpful. Southern New York state, or other commutable distance
(Connecticut, New Jersey) would be especially helpful.

Thank you all for your collective wisdom.


Hello Mona, Here in the Washington, D.C. Area, most appraisers
are independant and work at making private sales. Bench jewelers
are independant contractors. This means they get paid by the job
rather than the hour, day or week. Jewelers never seem to be out
of work. By far the fastest and best way to become a jeweler is
to find a job as an apprentice. Whether you have been to school
or not, you will still be an apprentice, so you might as well jump right in.
I wish you all the luck in the world. Tom Arnold

Dear Mona–Do the GIA correspondance course for gemology if
gemology is what you want. Try to only do GIA if you can help
it–they seem to be the most widely known and respected. Your
options then are: work retail hours in a jewelry store as their
gemologist/appraiser, work in a lab, work for a stone dealer.
Appraisal education is available by corespondance too, but you
have to be (or really should be) a gemologist first. As an
appraiser, you can work for a jewelry store, a lab that sends
appraisers “on the road” (fairly good money, I’m told, but the
schedule will kill you–would you like to appraise 40-60 pieces a
day?) and spend three weeks out and one week home? Or you can go
on your own, in which case you will need a MINIMUM of $10,000 for
start up money–equipment, computer, books, subscriptions,
insurance, etc, and need someone to support you for at leat 2-3
years until the money comes in. I’m told that after that time,
it starts to be okay. If the bench side interests you, sign on
part time at a lapidary, mineral store that also does jewelry,
and work part time, learning your skills. Then when your skills
are better, transfer to a custom shop that has enough business to
support at least 6-10 goldsmiths. That way you’ll be signing on
in a busy enough shop to really build your skills. Or look
around for a stone dealer and go to work for them–even the entry
level positions often lead to something. “free lance” is
something most people work up to, but definately an attainable
goal. The point is, you may have to spend some years (3-5) in the
"9-5" grind in jewelry–(just like anything else), but I’ll bet
you find, like most of us, that the “9-5” is pretty joyful when
it’s in a field that you love. In additon, an jewelry employer
will often foot the bill for your education and training. Once
you build skills and contacts, THEN go out on your own–ALOT
easier. Good luck–I hope this helps.